Words as Art: Haste Is A Plague

It’s ironic to me (and embarrassing) that the last time I discussed the topic of words I emphasized deliberation and posited that through careful thought, one can be artful in his or her use of words. I was in a hurry while I wrote that essay and did not craft it as artfully as I would’ve liked.

One major aspect of written words that makes them preferable to spoken words is accountability. Within a group of friends or other like-minded people, the spoken word dies as soon as it is heard. With the exception of an audio recording, there is no proof after the fact that words were spoken. In contrast, the written word has a paper trail, as it were, and it can be referenced later by anyone with access to it.

Considering the permanence of the written word, one is compelled to choose sentence structures and particular phrases that will avoid confusion while also protecting one’s reputation.  We all know that words can be damaging. The wrong words can sour a friendship, jeopardize a marriage, ruin a career, or damage other opportunities. Spoken words, unless recorded, are hearsay; written words are evidence.

“This proves that my ex wife has been sending letters to my cat.”

When asked a question in writing, one’s response can take into consideration a word choice that will most positively affect the outcome of the situation. Some words are more convincing than others. Some are more inspiring than others. In the spur of the moment, spoken words are often not the absolute ideal words one might use if given more time. Writing allows one a chance to reflect and consider multiple angles from which his or her words may be perceived.

In conceptual, analytical, and abstract thinking, word choice is sometimes the difference between making an ironclad statement and allowing yourself to be refuted by leaving open a loophole. Debate is an art form of which I am very fond, and the best form of it, in my opinion, is in written discourse. Over the years many such discourses have unfolded. Typically, these include back-and-forth essays or sometimes entire manuscripts.  In economics, for instance, many thinkers have differing opinions about money.  Many facets exist within the notion of money, including what constitutes wealth, how taxation should be administered (if at all), charity, re-distribution, and ethics to name a few.  Piles of books have been written on these topics, and one would be wise to read them before blurting out the first ideas to come to mind on these matters.

When thinkers give themselves the benefit of deliberation. which has the effect of making their cases as strong as possible, that is the pinnacle of words as art for me.  Hastily rushing to state one’s ideas on any topic is often folly.  Someone before you has likely spent a great deal of time considering whatever it is you wish to say.  Their careful research and writing will undoubtedly say it better, with more elegance, less fluff, and most importantly, their words will have substance.  The weight of an argument born of careful thought and hours of contemplation will almost always be greater than one whipped from the ingredients of hearsay, opinion, and an array of logical fallacies.

One mistake we all make (I am guilty of it often) is to assume that someone else’s stance is inferior to our own, which causes us to dismiss it.  We must be careful to acknowledge that another’s perspective, experience, and approach may be different from our own, but that their work has merit, regardless of those differences.  Understanding, rather than dismissing, a dissenting point of view will often strengthen one’s own position, either by altering it with new evidence, or by presenting weaknesses that one had never thought to exploit.

Whatever the outcome of exposure to deliberate thinking, it’s sure to be on the positive side.  Not an ounce of knowledge gained has ever been a step backward. The truth is the most powerful force in the world, and each bit of knowledge brings us closer to knowing it.



~ by hamiltonjacobs on December 12, 2013.

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